In Stephens v. DeGiovanni, the Plaintiff Stephens filed a lawsuit against Deputy DeGiovanni of the Broward County Sheriff’s Office arising out of his arrest. Two of his claims raised in this appeal for false seizure (arrest) and excessive force pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983. In this appeal to the Eleventh Circuit court of appeals, Stephens challenged the trial court grant of summary judgment to the deputy on the false arrest claim there was probable cause for the arrest. The trial judge also granted summary judgement on the excessive force claim because the force used in the arrest was de minimis.
The facts surrounding this arrest took place on February 16, 2009 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida in an apartment complex where Stephens and his cousin were guests of the cousin’s girlfriend, Claudia White. White’s apartment was on the second floor of a complex with businesses on the first floor and apartments on the second floor. Stephens and his cousin were checking on a car owned by Stephens girlfriend that she was planning to sell to White. White, who is a car mechanic, was sitting on the metal frame of the care using a diagnostic scanner to determine why a check engine light had come on.
Deputy DeGiovanni was on road patrol at 8:15 pm and aware of recent burglaries in the area. Because it was late and all the businesses were closed he decided to investigate so he approached and asked what they were doing. After they explained what they were doing, the deputy informed them that they were not supposed to be there. They explained they were invited guest of White who lived at the complex. The deputy asked for identification and Stephens produced a State of Florida identification card. He possessed a driver’s license issued in Jamaica where was from. While standing by the deputy Stephen’s phone rang. When he answered it the deputy slapped it away. When Stephens asked the deputy to get a field supervisor on the scene, the deputy told him to shut his mouth. The deputy then slugged Stephens in his chest slamming him into the driver’s seat. The deputy proceeded to hit Stephens two more times causing injury to his hand and arm.